Neuropsychiatric outcomes before and after switching to dolutegravir-based therapy in an acute HIV cohort

AIDS Res Ther. 2020 Jan 7;17(1):1. doi: 10.1186/s12981-019-0257-8.


Introduction: Dolutegravir (DTG)-based antiretroviral therapy (ART) is currently the first-line treatment for people living with HIV. Neuropsychiatric adverse events (NP-AEs) have been reported with DTG but neuropsychiatric symptoms have not been systemically quantified using structured scales. This study examined mood and cognitive parameters before and after a planned transition from non-DTG to DTG-based ART within a longitudinal study of acute HIV infection (AHI).

Methods: RV254 AHI cohort participants on ≥ 24 weeks of ART initiated at AHI underwent sequential assessments before and after the switch including: (1) Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), a 9-item survey (scores 0-27) that evaluates somatic and affective/cognitive symptoms of depression; (2) a 2-Questions screening that has been validated locally for depression; (3) Distress Thermometer (scores 0-10); and 4) administration of a 4-test neurocognitive battery sensitive to HIV.

Results: 254 individuals (95% male, median age 30) switched to a DTG-based regimen after a median 144 weeks of ART. Serial assessments were completed at a median of 19 weeks before and 37 weeks after DTG. There was a modest but statistically significant increase in PHQ-9 scores after DTG (pre-switch: 5 [IQR 1-7] vs. Post-switch: 5 [IQR 2-8], p = 0.009). The percentage of participants with at least moderate depression (PHQ-9 ≥ 10) increased from 10 to 16% (p = 0.006), but the frequency of moderate-severe depression (PHQ-9 ≥ 15) remained unchanged (3%). No volunteer reported NP-AEs within the study period. Somatic symptoms of depression increased more than cognitive/affective symptoms. Plasma viral suppression (HIV-1 RNA < 50; p = 0.005) and PHQ-9 ≥ 10 (p < 0.001) before switch were linked to lower PHQ-9 scores after DTG in multivariable analysis. Performance on all neuropsychological tests, except grooved pegboard test, improved modestly after DTG (all p < 0.05).

Conclusion: After a median duration of 37 weeks of DTG use, there was a modest increase in the higher quartile of PHQ-9. This increase was associated with a rise in moderate depression symptoms but not the more severe forms of depression on PHQ-9. No clinically relevant NP-AEs were reported. Pre-existing depression was not associated with subsequent worsening of symptoms after DTG. Cognitive test performance improved post-DTG but could be due to practice effect.

Keywords: Cognitive performance; Depression; Dolutegravir; Neuropsychiatric adverse events; RV254.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Data Analysis
  • Drug Substitution / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • HIV Integrase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • HIV-1 / drug effects
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 3-Ring / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Mood Disorders / etiology
  • Oxazines / adverse effects*
  • Piperazines / adverse effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pyridones / adverse effects*


  • HIV Integrase Inhibitors
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 3-Ring
  • Oxazines
  • Piperazines
  • Pyridones
  • dolutegravir